Lewiston City Council

Tuesday, Nov. 21

Sex offender residency restrictions 

What happened: The City Council approved a final reading of new sex offender residency restrictions, which prohibit any offender from living within 750 feet of designated areas such as city parks and schools. 

The ordinance has been debated at length during previous council meetings, as conflicting evidence was presented about whether the residency restrictions make communities safer.

What it means: The residency restrictions are based on state guidelines, and prohibit sex offenders convicted of offenses against persons under 14 at the time of the offense from living in the designated areas. However, those already living in the zones would be grandfathered until they move.

Before the ordinance was approved by a vote of 5-1, an amendment was added to allow offenders to live within the zone if the building is owned by an immediate family member. 

What’s next: City Councilor Kristen Cloutier said she’d like the council to receive monthly updates from police personnel about the number of offenders denied housing, and whether police feel the ordinance is isolating offenders and making them more difficult to track, a concern that’s been raised by the ordinances’s opponents. 

Lodging houses

What happened: The City Council approved final passage of amendments to the city’s zoning ordinances regarding lodging houses, which have been discussed by city officials since residents of the Bates College neighborhood came forward last year with complaints about excessive noise and disruptions.

One neighborhood in particular said they had seen dozens more buildings using the lodging house designation in the past few years. 

What it means: According to City Planner David Hediger, the ordinance amendments establish a definition of “family” and “family member,” refine the definition of lodging house and lodging place, and unify the application of the changes within the various city ordinances that pertain to lodging houses.

For landlords, receiving a lodging house designation requires heightened code requirements in return for allowing multiple tenants to live in a single-dwelling unit. Part of the amendments also create an overlay zone in the city that prohibits any new lodging houses. 

What’s next: The ordinance will go into effect, which Hediger said gives the city more authority to address the neighborhood problems. He said the Planning Board’s vote was 5-2, with some members concerned that the ordinance will be a challenge for city staff to enforce. 

Tobacco-free sidewalk

What happened: The City Council approved a first reading of an ordinance that prohibits smoking on a section of Campus Avenue from Sabattus Street to Central Street in an effort to have the entire St. Mary’s campus a “no smoking” area.

What it means: The no smoking area would include both the street and sidewalk area. The section of the street has no private residences or commercial properties.

What’s next: The council approved the first reading 5-1. Councilor Michael Lachance opposed the motion, saying such a public ban would be yet another step toward a city-wide ban on a legal substance. He said it’s not the role of government to regulate such things. 

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